It isn’t displayed in an egotist’s office, but the framed, glass-encased Brazilian National Team uniform emblazoned with the name “Clovis” serves as a reminder to players and recruits that head soccer coach Clovis Simas once had a very successful run in the soccer industry at large.
It’s a reminder that he made a ripple in the world that exists outside of peer-reviewed journals, the Pleasant Plains Extension and Union University Drive.
Simas helped lead the Brazilian National Team to the FIFA Futsal World Cup Title in 1996—the same year some of his freshman recruits were born. A few years earlier, he led his team in scoring in the Spain Cup. He also represented the World United team as the captain who helped lead them to the U.S. National Futsal Title in 2003.
Senior midfielder Clayton Martin said Simas uses his past successes to better the team. “He has been to the next level and knows what it takes to get there,” Martin said. “At the collegiate level, the game is very fast and physical, but in order to get to the next level, you must be able to play fast, physical and know how to read the game very quickly. That is one of the things Coach is always emphasizing. It is also just really awesome to be able to say that your coach has played in the Futsal World Cup.”
Simas has the Brazilian gift of the joyful, lineless, smooth face of a boy even though he is approaching middle age—his daughters Gabriele and Camila are Union students.
He smiles often when he reflects on his roundabout journey to West Tennessee.
“I met Union’s former president, Dr. Barefoot, in Brazil,” he said. Barefoot returned to campus telling tales of Simas and put him on the radar of Union’s former head soccer coach, Darin White.
There was just one problem. Simas, while prodigious with a soccer ball at his feet, didn’t speak a word of English. He enrolled in the ESL program at Oklahoma University to learn the language.
It was a phone call from a “relentless” White that kept Simas from signing with a school in Oklahoma and brought him to Union. The rest has become a delightful piece of the university’s history.
During his Union playing career, Simas served as team captain and was named an NCCAA Scholar Athlete in 2003. He played an instrumental part in Union’s NCCAA National Championship that year. Overall, he scored 13 goals and 17 assists in his two seasons with the Bulldogs. Simas went on to graduate cum laude with a degree in marketing and a minor in Spanish.
Legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson once told the Dallas Morning News that he “treats people as though they’ve already become what I want them to be.” What Simas wants for his players is to fully participate in the rich culture that is available to them at Union.
He doesn’t want them to be athletic mercenaries who never interact with the other students on campus.
“I encourage our players to room with non-athletes,” Simas said. “I want players who embrace the culture here at Union and who don’t try to push against it.”
The result is a campus that loves the team and a team that love the campus. While many small college soccer games take place in front of a handful of parents and girlfriends, Union’s stands are nearly full of students on hand to watch their friends.
“With Coach, it is not all about soccer,” Martin said. “Yes, we came here to play soccer, but we also came here to grow and expand our relationships with others. He is always encouraging us to stay involved—whether it be on campus or with a local church. There are so many opportunities to grow as a man and Coach is always there to encourage us to chase those opportunities.”
Athletic competition isn’t exactly a natural venue for Christ’s love to shine—at times, it’s a minefield of pressure and enmity. Still, Union holds its athletes to a high standard, as evidenced by its Department of Athletics philosophy, which states: ‘The student-athlete embraces Union’s core value of being ‘Christ-centered’ in conduct as an athlete and student. This objective is manifested by personal spiritual growth as well as exhibited by Christ-like conduct and sportsmanship in competition.’
“I want people to know that we have players who really embody what it means to love and follow Christ as an athlete,” Simas said.